General Annotated Bibliography for Renaissance Maiolica
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The works related to Renaissance maiolica decribe the role of these objects within the specific cultures and societies of Renaissance Italy.

As luxury items, in Richard Goldthwaithe's view, maiolica had a direct role in shaping the modern economic structures emerging during this period.

Diane Ahl, Elizabeth Minchilli, Julia Poole, Bernard Rackham and Helmut Wohl investigate the relation of these decorative objects to the artistic design concepts of the Renaissance and its symbols, metaphors and icons.

The stages of evolution of maiolica in relation to design changes and technological advancements is the focus of W.D.Kingery, while Cipriano Piccolopasso gives a first hand account of the production of these designs and implementation of new technologies in his 1526 text.

Finally, the works of Paula Findlen and Jacqueline Mussachio show the possibilities of interpreting maiolica through the use of material culture analysis and extensive documentary research. Their conclusions are important to understanding the relationship of these objects to society in general, and gender roles in particular.


Ahl, Diane Cole. Disegno: Italian Renaissance Designs for the Decorative Arts. New England: University Press of New England, 1997.

Abstract: Ahl takes a systematic approach to the design concepts permeating the Italian Renaissance by relating them to concrete examples and historical artifact. Her study is important in situating maiolica within the Renaissance interior, and aids in interpreting their production and consumption in the social realm through their relationship to decorative arts philosophies of this period.

Findlen, Paula. "Possessing the Past: the Material World of the Italian Renaissance." American History 103, no. 1 (1998): 83-114.

Abstract: Findlen's book delves into the material culture significance of decorative artifacts, clothing, and fine art of the early modern period in Italy. The archival sources Findlen uses are complemented by the multitude of objects she includes, such as maiolica ware, wedding chests and tapestries among others. Her thesis, that the material world was crucial in the Renaissance mindset in its reflection of humanistic concepts of the blend of beauty with practicality, along with its crucial role in the ritualistic aspects of society, is both convincing and integral for the purposes of my study.

Goldthwaite, Richard A. "The Economic and Social World of Italian Renaissance Maiolica." Renaissance Quarterly 42: 1-32.

Abstract: This essay explores the evolution of maiolica during the Renaissance to the high quality and various styles which mark this period of its production. This evolution is traced in regards to the high demand for this kind of art during this period which was dictated by the rise of a luxury market in line with the Renaissance evolution of a modern economic system. The demand for maiolica, Goldthwaite argues, was due to the improvement in the potter's techniques, the development of a more refined business system , the increase in wealth in society,and the attainment of a certain prestige for the market through its penetration into foreign markets. Along with a detailed historical analysis of the production and growth in the art of maiolica, Goldthwaite gives first hand accounts of the inventories of famous Italians, such as the Duke of Calabria, the Gonzaga marquis of Mantua, who in 1526 noted particular pleasure in eating off maiolica wares. Such evidence is crucial in interpreting consumer's habits, values and attitudes towards maiolica, where the development of refined dining rituals and the specification of certain styles for particular functions.

Kingery, W. D. "Painterly Maiolica of the Italian Renaissance." Technology and Culture 34 (January) (1993): 28-47.

Abstract: Kingery's approach to painterly maiolica is one based on the more scientific approach, which takes into consideration design but focusses on the materials of production, their availability, cost and usage. Kingery, as a professor a the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is interested in understanding the 'istoriato' maiolica, those pieces which depicted elaborate scenes. That style, popularized by Orazio Fontana of Deruta, utilized a sophisticated technique of a strong colour palette, complemented by the hidden decoration of initals within the surface of the art work, rather than on the underside of the piece. Kingery's exploration of technique is important in understanding the science of maiolica and how this, in turn, affected its design stages and increase in consumer consumption.

Minchilli, Elizabeth Helman. Deruta: A Tradition of Italian Ceramics. New York: Chronicle Books, 1998.

Abstract: Minchilli approaches the history of Deruta maiolica, produced in the hills of Umbria, Italy, through both textual and visual sources. Her broad study, which also includes a step-by-step analysis of the production of maiolica, is complimented by the historical analysis of the early modern period. She reaches her scope to the present day, decribing the works of present day artists such Antonio Margaritelli, who enjoy popularity in their modern interpretations of a five hundred year old craft. It is an inclusive study, and integral to understanding the artistic design and painstaking technique of maiolica production.

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Musacchio, Jacqueline Marie. The Art and Ritual of Childbirth in Renaissance Italy. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999.

Abstract: Musacchio's study is based upon documents and objects related to pregnancy and childbirth of early modern Tuscany from the late fourteenth to the early seventeenth century, which she found in various collections in Italy. Musacchio utilizes various objects as a basis for studying childbirth in the Renaissance (i.e: wooden trays and bowls for childbirth, maiolica wares for childbirth and the artwork that adorns them; sheets/towels; hats/cloaks; birth and death records; expense accounts; household inventories; diaries, legislation and letters) that have not previously been utilized in this type of historical analysis. The book contains extensive colour illustrations appendixed by actual estate inventories such as Antonio Castellani's Wedding Expenses and the Frescobaldi Confinement Room. Her thesis confirms the importance of childbirth to both the family and society at large during the Renaissance. The designation of certain objects as being specifically female indicates to Musacchio the limited range of roles women played in Renaissance society and explains their lack of inclusion in past historigraphical analyses.

Piccolpasso, Cipriano. Three Books of the Potter's Art. London: Scholar Press, 1557.

Abstract: These three books, written in 1557, are remarkable in their detail to the methods and techniques of the production of maiolica pottery in Renaissance Italy. Also significant are the description of daily life and perspectives of the time. Picolpasso, born in the early 16th century in Umbria, was a prize winning potter who was supported by the Cardinal de Tournon, among many. These partronage relationships are integral in understanding the importance maiolica held in the societal value structure of Northern Italy. The text is also important in its definition of the production modes of maiolica, and the consideration paid to it along the lines of technical skills such as drawing, colour and subject matter. Such an analysis helps in the modern day interpretation of design symbols which do not hold the same significance now as they did in the past.

Poole, Julia E. Italian Maiolica (Fitzwilliam Museum Handbooks). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

Abstract: This study explores the history of maiolica, as a type of earthenware glazed with tin, which was associated with the Renaissance, and made in Italy from the thirteenth century. Along with many illustrations and a chronological exploration of the characteristic styles of maiolica from 1250 to 1920, this book gives a background to the social context of maiolica production. It is based on solid sources, both visual and textual, which makes the study a key component to understanding the nature and role of maiolica from the early modern period to the present.

Rackham, Bernard. Italian Maiolica. London: Ashmolean Museum, 1963.

Abstract: Rackham, one of the founders of contemporary scholarship on the subject of maiolica production, style and consumption, traces the early history of the evolution of maiolica in Italy, through its stages of style changes and production technique advancements, up to the nature of design to the modern period. Rackham's study is important in its visual analysis of the artistic form of maiolica, and is critical in interpreting the stages of evolution which Rackham believes, was constantly advancing, in accordance with the increase in consumer demand. Wohl, H

Wohl, Hellmut. The Aesthestics of Italian Renaissance Art: A Reconsideration of Style. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

Abstract: In this broad study, Wohl's redefinition of Renaissance art is based upon a revisionist reading of prescribed treatises and previous historiography. Through a textual and material culture analysis, Wohl posits that art during the Renaissance was considered as a decorative mode, which enhanced the surfaces of their interior spaces. In this way, the fine arts were considered of the same genre as the decorative arts, and both were integral in their reflection of the philosophies and ethics of the times. Wohl's thesis does a great service to the ranking of maiolica in the fine arts field, for it had as much significance to the early modern mind as did the great fine arts masterpieces. don: 1998

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